Investigation of the
music scene in Northern Ireland
“Giving it your all for the crowd, for the band and for yourself is what is vitally important at the end of the day.”
What draw does the music scene in Northern Ireland possess?
One of the things that Northern Ireland has to be proud of is its contribution to music. Take Van Morrison as an example, he is one of Belfast’s and music’s true talents. Receiving six Grammy awards, the 1994 Brit award for outstanding contribution to the music, as well as being inducted into the Rock and Roll and Songwriters hall of fame respectively. Northern Ireland also has celebrity fans such as: Liam Gallagher, of Oasis and Beady eye fame, describing the people of Northern Ireland as, “always so up for it- they just get it.” With regards to new talent in the Northern Ireland music scene, the Oh Yeah music centre acts as almost a bridge, for helping new talent find their way to the top. I have learned from researching Northern Ireland’s music scene and an article from Ireland.com, that Northern Ireland’s capital Belfast, is a place for music lovers of all genres. It is also clear that the Northern Ireland music scene has produced top notch superstars such as Van Morrison, and is currently producing the next wave of talented bands, duos and singer songwriters. This is the draw that the music scene in Northern Ireland possesses.
What successful acts has the Northern Ireland music scene produced of recent note?
One of the main awards ceremony in Northern Ireland is the NIMA’s, which stands for the Northern Ireland Music awards. The NIMA’s celebrate the best of local music. This clearly indicates that Northern Ireland’s music scene is fruitful in the acts it is able to produce, and later establish worldwide as successful acts. Back in 2011, an article from the Belfast Telegraph had a list that I was able to find, of Northern Ireland artists to watch out for. These bands included: Wonder Villains, And so I watch you from afar, Cashier no 9, The Japanese Popstars, Two Door Cinema Club, LaFaro and General fiasco. Since this article was written, these acts have produced albums and gained worldwide acclaim, especially the band Two Door Cinema Club. With their third studio album, Gameshow, being released in October 2016. These bands are proof of the quality acts that the Northern Irish music scene have produced over the past couple of years, and will all in well continue to produce in the future.
What venues in Northern Ireland stage the best music?
“The feeling of being able to play in a venue with a good crowd can’t be matched.”
Another article from the Belfast Telegraph reports on the best venues for country music. Trevor Campbell aka Big T from Downtown radio, gives his best venues that stage country music within Northern Ireland. He lists five venues including: Belfast Nashville songwriter’s festival, The Ramble Inn in Antrim, The Ryandale in Moy, Mourne Country Hotel in Newry, Tullyglass Hotel in Ballymena and Melon Country Inn near Omagh. All of the country venues listed by Trevor Campbell are spread out throughout Northern Ireland, meaning there isn’t just one area in Northern Ireland that has great venues for country music.
5 Gigs not to miss this March, is the tagline from an article on giggingni.com. This article talks about five gigs from artists that any music lover should not miss. These five acts include Frank & The Rattlesnakes in the Oh Yeah Centre, Russian Circles in the Empire Hall, Sonata Arctica in Limelight, Run The Jewels in Limelight and Stormzy also in Limelight in Belfast. All of these acts performing in the different venues aren’t from Northern Ireland, but the music scene itself in Northern Ireland has undoubtedly encouraged them to travel to the country, and perform for their fans. The venues in Northern Ireland like the Limelight have always been able to draw big acts from all parts of the world to perform there. The artists from near and far enjoy the atmosphere that the Northern Irish crowds bring, and that keeps them coming back to perform at sold out gigs. Due to the fact that big acts like Run the Jewels and Stormzy for example have performed in a venue like Limelight, gives it the status of fame. Upcoming acts in Northern Ireland can look at this draw that a venue in Northern Ireland can produce, and this encourages them to improve, and maybe play on the same stage one day that their idols have done in the past.
Speaking to Zakk Gowing the lead guitarist of Gozer the Traveller, he was able to tell me how he performed in a battle of the bands gig in Limelight with Gozer at the end of February. He explained how special it was to perform on a stage where some of his idols had performed before him, and that it’s so important that venues such as Limelight continue to draw big name artists, as it will give bands such as his own to look up too, and really believe that the sky is the limit. His band didn’t win the competition, but the feeling of being able to play in a venue with a good crowd could not be matched. Giving it your all for the crowd, for the band and for yourself is what is vitally important at the end of the day. This is what Zakk was able to tell me about his experience of playing in Limelight with his band, Gozier the Traveller.
A link to Gozer the Traveller’s Facebook page
A picture of Zakk performing in Limielight With Gozer.
Is it difficult for Northern Irish acts to break into the mainstream of other countries?
“It will always be difficult for bands or stand-alone musicians starting out to make a mark in the Northern Irish mainstream.”
With any country it is an honour to be popular, but to be big in a country like America for example, is a next level honour. Northern Irish acts have been able to make names for themselves in the mainstream of other countries. Taking the Northern Irish band, Two Door Cinema Club for example, their debut album, Tourist History in 2010, charted in numerous music charts across the globe. Charting fifth in the US Heat Seekers Album chart, twenty-sixth in the US Independent albums chart, twenty sixth in the Scottish Albums chart and fortieth in the Belgian alternative albums chart. Their sophomore album, Beacon in 2012, was more successful in charting in other countries. Charting sixth in the US Alternative Albums chart, fifth in the US Independent Albums chart, seventh in the US Rock Albums chart, fourth in the Australian Albums chart and second in the Scottish Albums chart. Their latest album release, Gameshow, charted in a number of countries across the globe, but wasn’t as successful as Beacon. Charting twenty-fourth in the Australian Albums chart, twelfth in the Scottish Albums chart, eighth in the US Top Alternative albums chart and thirteenth in the US top Rock Albums chart.
Two Door Cinema Club are a great example of a Northern Irish band, that have been able to transition well into the mainstream charts of other countries. Although the band’s achievements by no means say that it is easy for any band from Northern Ireland, to be successful in other countries’ music charts.
Speaking to Zakk, and asking him about Gozier the Traveller’s chances in the mainstream, and about mainstream music in the Northern Irish music scene, he had an interesting opinion on the matter. He told me that being in a heavy metal band himself, would make it harder for them to break into the mainstream in Northern Ireland. Although it didn’t matter what genre of music it was, it will always be difficult for bands or stand-alone musicians starting out to make a mark in the Northern Irish mainstream. He believed that to be popular you had to stand out and be unique. This would in turn allow popularity to soar, and for music executives to recognise you, and sign you up for deals, tours of different countries etc. Zakk also believed that if a music listener was only listening to one genre of music, and not making contact with other genres, then they were simply missing out. Zakk believed that Northern Ireland’s music scene is currently vibrant, but it could be better when it comes to the appreciation of metal as a genre of music. Comparing Northern Ireland’s music scene to England and America, Zakk also thought that the reason there were so many, and have always been more opportunities in them countries, is because they are simply much larger than Northern Ireland.
Even though the scene may be smaller in comparison to England and America’s, Zakk believed that the Northern Irish music scene can only get bigger and better. With more and more new bands, singers and songwriters coming out of the woodwork. Restricting yourself to a specific genre of music would not allow the Northern Irish music scene to progress or get better. It would result in the scene always being inferior to other music scenes like in England or America for example.